On October 10, 2001, a group of Latino workers filed a lawsuit under of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. against Quietflex Manufacturing Co., in the United States District Court of the Western District of Texas, though it was subsequently transferred to the Southern District. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and eventually the EEOC, asked the Court for injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as back pay and punitive damages alleging that Quietflex discriminated against them on the basis of national origin. 3690215 WL 1 (S.D. Tex. 2004). Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that they were discriminated in pay and work conditions based on their national origin and also that they were fired on January 10, 2002, in retaliation for a work stoppage they staged to protest discrimination against Latino employees. 3690215 WL 2 (S.D. Tex. 2004).
The litigation arose from allegations that the company used departmental segregation that kept most Latinos confined to one department , even when they requested transfer. The "Latino department" was department 911, and the "Vietnamese department" was 910. While the defendant claimed there was no racial segregation, the workers of department 911 allegedly received lower wages than workers in Department 910; had more physically demanding and dangerous jobs; worked more hours to meet their minimum production quotas; were provided inadequate safety equipment; were more frequently injured; and were required to perform menial tasks, such as cleaning the lunchroom and the bathroom, without compensation. The plaintiffs asserted that defendants "regularly and purposefully asserted a requirement of English language fluency to deny Latinos transfer to more desirable departments, including 910, and yet, defendants did not impose an English language fluency requirement on similarly situated non-Latino employees who do not speak or read English." Not only was their treatment allegedly beyond unfair, but, upon protesting those conditions in a staged walkout, the plaintiffs were fired. 3690215 WL 2 (S.D.T.X. 2004). Furthermore, the plaintiffs alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., on the ground that they were regularly required to work in excess of 40 hours per week, but were not paid for such overtime work. 3690215 WL 3 (S.D. Tex. 2004).
On February 26, 2002, the court (Judge Rosenthal) consolidated the case with another civil action No. H-01-4323, Jose P. Aleman, et al. v. Quietflex Manufacturing Co., L.P., et al, a class action arising out of the same facts. 3690215 WL 3 (S.D. Tex. 2004).
On December 4, 2004, the Court (Judge Rosenthal) granted the EEOC's motion to intervene. The EEOC sought a permanent injunction against Quietflex prohibiting it from engaging in employment practices that discriminate on the basis of national origin. The EEOC also asks the Court to order back wages plus interest, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the plaintiffs. According to the EEOC press release, the EEOC only filed suit after investigating the case, finding discrimination, and exhausting its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement.
On January 6, 2003, all other counsel withdrew, and the plaintiffs were represented solely by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
On March 31, 2006, the court (Judge Rosenthal) denied the plaintiffs motion for class certification. The basis of the decision was due to the representative plaintiffs of the proposed class asking the court to disregard the claims for compensatory damages on a class wide-basis. This move was designed to improve the likelihood of certification, but ended up being the reason the court denied the motion. The court stated that the decision to drop the monetary damages claim cannot be imposed upon the absent class members without raising a very serious conflict of interest. Therefore, he court then ordered the two parties into mediation. 235 F.R.D. 383 (S.D. Tex. 2006).
On January 22, 2007, the court signed and ordered the proposed consent decree. The settlement gave $2.8 million to the 78 person group of plaintiffs. It also forced the company to implement policies and practices that advance equal opportunity employment. The case was closed, but reopened when plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce consent decree.
On October 20, 2009, the Court ordered that one section of the consent decree was to remain in effect until March 21, 2010. Parties had until April 5, 2010, to move for further modification, but no such motions were made, and there has been no further action in the case.Matthew Aibel - 11/06/2010
Ian Sander - 10/30/2016